Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Living the Dream in NYC

New York City... There has been no other place that we’ve been to which has carried such anticipation and exception as we arrived.  As our plane arrived into JFK airport from Iceland, we both couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces. We were in America! The land of the free and the home of the brave. Since becoming a bartender, it has been my dream to one day visit New York City and drink in some of the great bars of the world.  Cara and I quickly gathered our bags and jumped on board the NYC metro train and headed  for Union Square, located in the lower east side of Manhattan.  Throughout our travels, Cara and I have tended to stray away from the cab option when travelling from airports to city centres. We find that catching public transport gives you a better feel for how the locals live. Our first train ride in America will be a memorable one. Mid-way through the trip, a couple of dances jumped on and began to give the commuters a break dancing show. We’d seen buskers in trains in Italy and France, but this was something else. Using the trains handles and poles to perform flips and other break dancing tricks, running up and down the carriage as the train was moving. It was quite a good show and a great introduction to life and culture in America. 

We made it to our hotel on 17th Street, dumped our bags and headed across the street to a bar for frosty cold beer and classic New York style pizza.  I ordered a pint of “Blue Moon” Beer, this popular NYC beer, is a Belgium style beer which is brewed in Colorado. Blue Moon is produced by the MillerCorrs Company, one of the biggest brewing companies in America. MillerCorrs are most commonly known for the Miller Genuine Draft range along with Corrs lite (2 of the most popular beers in America). Both the Miller and the Corrs and very light in colour and are made in more of a lager style, so the inspiration behind the Blue Moon was to create a European style beer which was more similar to an ale. This unique beer has proved to be successful as I noticed throughout our time in New York, that almost every bar had the Blue Moon on tap.  After a our beer and pizza, the time was 11pm, but with the time difference from Iceland,  our body clock was telling us it was about 4am. So we got back to our hotel and hit the hay. We needed sleep as the next few days were going to be busy. 

There are so many places to visit in New York City, where do you start? Cara and I had no idea what to do first. If you had to see only one thing in New York, what would it be? After some debate, we agreed that the Statue of Liberty would be the top of the list. So we set out and made our way to the lower west side of Manhattan Island. On our way to the Statue of Liberty, we had the opportunity to visit "Ground Zero”, the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. No words can describe the feeling when visiting the World Trade Centre site. Cara and I felt many emotions during our visit. Obviously great sadness for the victims, but we also had much admiration for the people in New York. These locals have turned this tragedy and have used it to pull together and support each other and build a community spirit which can never be broken.  

Once leaving Ground Zero, we were only a short walk from the Staten Island ferry. This free ferry service, takes you from Manhattan Island, right past the Statue of Liberty, to Staten Island. Its the best and cheapest way to see the Statue up close. Once we cruised to Staten Island and back, taking many photos along the way, it was time for lunch.  As we went in search of the typical NYC diner, we suddenly found ourselves standing on Wall St, out the front of the New York City stock exchange. After more picture taking, we found a diner, and had another regular meal in a New Yorkers diet, a classic Hot Dog.  

We began to make our way back to our hotel to freshen up, as we had a big night planned. We were heading to Times Square and also popping into B.B. Kings Jazz Bar to see the band “Atlantic Star”.  As we made our way up 5th Ave, we decided to stop off in a local tavern, not for a cocktail, but for a simple rum and coke, just to get a feel for what your standard New York “watering hole” was like. We struck up a conversation with the bartender who was happy to explain to us the "do’s" and “dont’s" for tourists in NYC. A “do” was to tip well and you’ll get “hooked-up” by the bartender, by over pouring your next drink, tip poorly, and you might as well just purchase a coke, because you won’t have much rum in you glass next time you order. Another “don’t” was not to take a horse and carriage ride through central park. New yorkers see that as a bit of a joke. If you want to see Central park, walk it, or hire a bike. So we took that advise on board as our next day was going to be spent in the park.  We finally made it to Times Square and did what thousands of other tourists were doing and thats take as many photos as we could and try not to get hassled by buskers or people dressed up as movie characters trying to get you to have your picture taken with them.  This place was packed, and it was just your usual saturday night. You could only imagine what it would be like for the famous “ball-drop” on new years eve.

After an amazing night out at B.B King’s and Times Square, we needed to return to our hotel. We had another busy following day ahead.  I could go on and describe every single little thing we did during our time in New York, but it would go on forever. To summerise, The next day was spent entirely in Central park, with dinner later that night spent around the lower east side of Manhattan. The following day was jam packed with us conquering the Empire State building and going to the Ed Sullivan Theatre for a taping of the “Dave Letterman Show”, then going to some of the top drinking spots the city had to offer.

When it comes to cocktail bars in various cities we visit, It’s usually me, who does the bar research and Cara is the one who gets dragged around to the many amazing bars we’ve drunk at. But this time, Cara suggested a bar that we must visit as it was featured in “Sex and the City”, one of her favourite shows. So I was more than happy to visit a bar which i’d never heard of before but is apparently well known to many locals. It was a place called “The Monkey Bar”, a short walk past Madison Ave on 54th Street.  This bar was definitely not a touristy bar. Filled with business men and women who had just finished work. It was quite intimidating for Cara and I as we walked through the door. We didn’t let this bother as too much as we pulled up a stool at the bar and ordered our drinks. I ordered a cocktail called a “No Problemo”. I martini style drink which consisted of Reposado tequila, Celery bitters, lime juice, an egg white and Licor 43 (a bright yellow Spanish liqueur, which has a strong vanilla and herbal flavour). Cara ordered a drink called “Mule Variations”. This was exactly what the name said, it was a variation on a classic Moscow Mule. It was made up of aged rum, fresh pressed ginger juice, lime juice and spiced walnut liqueur. Both our drinks were nice and well balanced. After two years of travelling the world drinking cocktails, it now takes a lot to impress Cara and I, So despite our drinks being very nice and well balanced, they didn’t exactly rate up there with the best drinks we’ve ever had. But that didn’t matter though. We were sitting in a swanky NYC bar, absolutely loving life and it gave us a chance to stop for a second and reflect on the past few busy days in the city the never sleeps.

We had one more day left in New York, so we decided to head out of Manhattan and visit Queens. After spending a gorgeous afternoon in Flushing Meadows Park we had one last thing to do in Manhattan. I mentioned earlier about the classic New York hot dog which we had at a local diner, and as delicious as the diner hot dog was, no visit to NYC is complete without a visit to “Grays Papaya” probably one of the most famous chain of hot dog stores in the world. So just before we returned to our hotel for the last time, we made a stop off at Grays Pappaya, just near 17th street.  It was our last night in New York and it has been a visit we will never forget. We tried not to get to upset about leaving, we still had much left in America to see. As we chowed down on our “Papaya” hot dogs we looked ahead to our next stop... Philadelphia.

“No Problemo”

In a Shaker,
45ml Reposado Tequila
15ml Licor 43
A dash of Celery Bitters
30ml Lime Juice
1 x Egg White
Shake and double strain into a Martini Glass

“Mule Variations”
In a Shaker:
60ml Aged Rum
30ml Lime Juice
5ml Ginger juice
15ml Walnut Liqueur
Shake and strain over ice in a short glass

The Amazing New York City, Looking out from the top of the Empire State Building.

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